Talent Acquisition Steps That Enrage, Not Engage, Top Talent

Apr 12, 2011

Many employers place critical talent acquisition responsibilities into the hands of ill-equipped and oftentimes unprofessional individuals who step on fingers of those perceived to be on lower rungs of the ladder. They do this without considering the future ramifications of not having a bridge back the other way. Perhaps these employers feel that they have nothing to lose with their lack of compassion and disregard for those expressing interest in joining their firms.

Usually what tends to happen is that an employee leaves the organization or someone decides that some new work must get done and it is time to expand the staff. Next, a haphazard job description is located from a previous opening or a new list of requirements is jotted down and hastily slapped up on the job board of choice.

Taking the time to examine which competencies and characteristics will enable achievement of corporate goals, rather than just refilling a vacant chair with a clone of the prior occupant is rarely done. Inevitably, resumes of predominantly unqualified applicants begin to pour in by the hundreds, leaving the recruiter frustrated and overwhelmed. Meanwhile, the hiring manager is eagerly awaiting some action and attention.

If lucky, some highly skilled impressive folks turn up in the pile and are immediately passed through an initial screening. They may move on through additional steps, meeting with various influencers and decision-makers. Ultimately, after anywhere from several weeks to several months of this going on, a selection is finally made and an offer is extended and accepted.

While there may be nothing particularly noteworthy in that oversimplified depiction, the main point of this article is the opinions being formed from the candidates’ perspectives. For a number of years, I’ve worked one-on-one with job seekers of all levels — mostly experienced, educated, mid/senior level professionals from various industries — to assist them in preparing for their next opportunity. In doing so, I’ve collected countless anecdotes and what some may refer to as horror stories.

For mysterious reasons, these experiences don’t seem to faze the people on the other end of the transaction. For brevity, these are condensed down to the basic situation without the full contextual reference points. These samples leave no doubt that employers are missing opportunities to build relationships with their target audience, potential customers, and most importantly brand ambassadors.

  • Jordan spotted a job posting on one of his email alerts that looked to be below his level, but since he knew someone at the company, he checked for more information. It turned out the that the hiring manager really liked his background and even filled in some details to make the position sound a bit more advanced than how it was written. After investing several hours over a few weeks, including taking an entire day off work to travel for interviews, he was rejected with a vague and confusing “not a cultural fit” excuse.
  • During a phone interview with an internal corporate recruiter (that was arranged by a boutique search firm who pre-vetted her), the first question (45-year-old) Megan was asked was “what year did you graduate from college?” The remainder of the call contained equally irrelevant, offensive, and condescending questioning and commentary by the corporate recruiter.
  • In a face-to-face interview, Jody’s resume format and content was ripped apart by the interviewer, who proceeded to complain and chastise her over her level of experience and suitability for the position. Rather than sit there and take the abuse, Jody held her composure long enough to excuse herself in time to keep her tears between her and her steering wheel.
  • When it was her turn to ask questions at the end of a panel interview that seemed focused on company culture, Casey asked the interviewers to define and describe the unique elements of their culture. A few of them stated “fun” as the key component. Casey found this ironic since the entire team never smiled or showed any emotion or expression during her interview session that felt more like an interrogation or court hearing.
  • Ken was referred by an internal executive at a company, where he was ushered through a series of interviews, meeting up to 10 different people. Though the final round was positioned as a last gauge of chemistry/culture fit, Ken was subjected to yet another batch of rudimentary and one-sided behavioral interview questions posed by a group who seemed disinterested in him as a coworker, just curious to hear his answers to some oddly placed inquiries.
  • Tiffany was hopeful about a promising-sounding position after being led to believe and actually told that she was the only remaining top contender. She thought it was a great sign when the hiring company asked for her references. The very next day, luckily before her references were checked, Tiffany was crushed to learn that the company decided to move forward and offer the position to an internal candidate.
  • Alan’s prospective employer took things a bit further and actually checked his references (which were all glowing) before sending him through one more round of panel interviews. Unfortunately, even though everyone up to that point thought Alan was an awesome catch, the last crowd didn’t agree. He was left stunned, going from the top candidate with an imminent offer, to being told “never mind.” The worst part was feeling upset that he had troubled his references and now had some explaining to do for the false alarm.
  • Justin tried to prepare for several interviews at the same employer by researching the people he was scheduled to meet with, only to find fewer than 25% of them had a LinkedIn profile. When he met them in person, it was evident that their longevity at their employer was important to them and he immediately felt judged for having moved around a few times despite gaining new experiences with each job.

There are plenty more examples of poor behavior and broken employment brand tales to add, but the overall issue is that employers are expecting top talent to land at their doorstep and then they subject them to countless hoops to jump, steps to climb, and personalities to read only to coldly reject them for no apparent reason. Everything from their inadequate and misleading job postings to their guilty until proven innocent barrage of questions and abrupt unexplained dismissals, points to a severe lack of concern for the candidate experience.

While many people might think “so what, it’s a buyers market.” That is only partially relevant and obviously not a prudent business strategy or sustainable methodology.

The fundamental theme in this economy and for the foreseeable future is that none of us can afford to neglect or mistreat anyone who might be a source of revenue, references, referrals, business leads, or anything else connected to our personal and organizational success. Judging by the treatment that most job-seekers endure, it appears that only some are wise enough to believe and conduct ourselves based on the concept of “what comes around goes around.”

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